The morning after madness starts out with a vigorous brushing of the teeth. More accurately, every morning starts out this way because it is the one thing I can control, the one centering aspect of my daily life. I can count on brushing my teeth. I brush hard and fast and thoroughly. I brush my teeth with style and precision. I brush my teeth with great attention to detail. I brush my teeth with the grace of a saint. I brush my teeth to keep the monsters at bay. I brush my teeth to keep the kids out of the attic. I could wake up on a sticky floor with a massive hangover next to a woman I don’t remember meeting, full of terminal hopelessness and despair, but given the chance to brush my teeth, I could smile and tell you there’s a pretty good chance that its going to be a pretty good day.
Brushing my teeth will not let me down. Brushing my teeth will never say, “Thanks but we’re not sure we can sell this,” or “we truly enjoy your work, unfortunately, we’re going to go in a different direction.” Brushing my teeth is there for me, brushing my teeth tells me that while we may not have everything in life figured out, we can at least strive for perfection, and sometimes we come pretty close to obtaining it. Brushing my teeth will, if nothing else, begin to erase the depravity and the failings of the night before.
Which is why it’s a pretty big deal when I start to run low on toothpaste. One day the tube will be slightly less than half full, and I’ll realize, I’m going to have to get more toothpaste in the next week or two, but I really won’t think anything of it. Two weeks later, I’ll discover that I’m out of toothpaste, and the ritual will begin. First, I’ll completely flatten out the tube, and then slowly scrap every bit towards the end, towards daylight and my tooth brush, towards my Zen. Three days later, after I’ve squeezed every conceivable bit out, I’ll suddenly be faced with the horrible reality that I will not be able to brush my teeth that morning.
I will take a step back. I will reevaluate. I will approach from different angles. I will squeeze and resqueeze, and then use the counter as leverage to squeeze some more. I will rummage through drawers, and look through cabinets. I will curse my stupidity, having known for weeks that this day would come, having every opportunity to ward it off, and yet here it is. I will wet my tooth brush and brush my teeth without paste, and I will feel like a fraud. A coward. A non-believer. I will wonder how I’ve made it this far in life without meeting some untimely demise when I can’t even remember to pick up more toothpaste. I will wonder about the heroes of our time, and whether they ever run into similar problems. I will fall into an utterly horrible depression. I will drink coffee, and try to pretend that I brushed, that I brushed them the right way, and I will feel fake, ugly, degenerate. I will be a moody bastard all day.
I will run down to the market, the one on 3rd and Couch, the one owned by the severe looking Korean family, and I will demand satisfaction. I will demand life, and dreams, and happiness. I will demand puppies on Christmas morning to go along with a six figure publishing deal and a pint of Guinness on the side. I will demand a new tube of Crest. I will be happy.
And the whole scene will repeat itself a week later, except this time with toilet paper.